Strategy #1: Procuring and Managing Low-carbon Desktop and Enterprise IT Equipment


The production, use and disposal phases of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) equipment by the government sector has significant impacts on the environment through overall energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. The lifecycle of ICT hardware comprises several complex production stages, including acquisition of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, use and maintenance, and end of life disposal.  

Key climate impacts of purchases of ICT hardware result from both the use phase and upstream production phase:

  • Energy consumed during the use phase:
    • If all computers sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR certified, over $1 billion in energy costs would be saved yearly.  ENERGY STAR  is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps governments, businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through superior energy efficiency.  The program certifies products that meet ENERGY STAR standards for energy efficiency.
  • Greenhouse gases emitted:
    • If all computers sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR certified, approximately 15 billion fewer pounds of GHG emissions would be emitted, equivalent to more than 1.4 million vehicles being taken off the road.
  • Upstream (or embodied) energy:
    • Energy consumed during the acquisition of raw materials and manufacturing components is also highly significant.  This includes mining of metals such as copper, cobalt, gold, tin and aluminum which are highly energy intensive activities.
  • Other significant impacts of the ICT lifecycle:
    • Chemical and water usage in mining processes, plastics production, component manufacturing and end-of-life management.
    • Use of flame-retardant chemicals, which have endocrine disrupting effects, in the product.
    • Use of conflict minerals sourced from regions where armed conflict and human rights abuses occur related to mining activities.

Estimates project that government will increase use of ICT hardware dramatically over the next decades. The expansion of technology use means that energy consumption and other impacts of the sector will continue to rise.